Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Spreading Booze War

Posted on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Last week, we wrote a piece discussing the impact Initiative 1183 — which will dismantle the state's control over booze — will have on regional craft liquor makers.

It probably won't be good.

This week, a couple of stories came out of neighboring states showing that Washington voters may have started a trend with the initiative.

After Washington voters gleefully took liquor out of the state's hands, by a 60-40 vote, backers of the initiative looked south, according to Portland's altweekly Willamette Week.

“Washington went from being the most tightly controlled state in the country to being the most deregulated,” Ron Dodge, CEO of Hood River Distillers, told the paper. As Oregon’s largest spirits manufacturer, Hood River spent $100,000 to oppose I-1183. “They handed all the business to the big grocers on a silver platter.”

The piece explores the chances of Costco toppling Oregon, which is one of 18 "control" states — meaning the state, and not private industry, sells booze. 

Things aren't much different in Idaho, where according to the Associated Press, a "grocery industry lobbyist" met with Gov. Butch Otter to discuss the possibility of doing to the Gem state what was done to the Evergreen.

Northwest Grocery Association President Joe Gilliam met with Otter's staff, as well as Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, late in December. 

"It was a meet and greet procedure," Ysursa said. "They wanted to know the procedure, how it gets on the ballot, the deadlines."

According to the AP, Gilliam must collect 47,432 registered voter signatures by April 30.  Having dumped $22 million into Washington's race, Costco seems likely to help fund the campaign necessary to collect that many signatures in so short a time.

Then the booze will flow like wine. 

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